Pubdate: Thu, 25 Feb 2016
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Kristy Kirkup
Page: A4


OTTAWA - Criminal Code provisions on marijuana must be upheld and
enforced even as the government considers a legalized regime, says
former Toronto Police chief and Liberal MP Bill Blair.

Blair, who has been tapped by the Trudeau government as the pot
frontman, was among a group who spoke at an open Senate Liberal caucus
meeting Wednesday focused on the legalization of marijuana.

Earlier this month, members of the police community - which Blair
belonged to before starting his political career - said the discussion
surrounding legalization had created confusion, especially for
front-line enforcement officers.

Blair, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, seemed to make
a concerted effort to nip that in the bud on Wednesday.

Laws remain on the books, he said.

"The laws that currently exist, exist in this country and we are a ...
nation of laws," Blair said. "Quite frankly, until those laws are
repealed by Parliament through the appropriate processes, they should
be upheld, they should be obeyed."

Criminal sanctions should be eventually be replaced by a regulatory
framework, Blair added.

The Liberal government has been under fire from critics, including
outspoken marijuana activists such as Jodie Emery, on the need to
explore amnesty for those facing simple possession charges.

Sen. Jim Munson also raised the issue Wednesday, saying the
government's timing on legalization gives him pause, considering the
Senate studied and recommended it some 14 years ago.

"In the interim, as everybody works on these issues, is that a
possibility - that amnesty could be granted during this four-year
term?" Munson asked.

Blair did not answer the question directly.

"We are going to take the time to do it right. ... This is a complex
issue," Blair said. "In order to get this right, the government is
undertaking a number of initial steps."

The first step will be establishing a provincial, territorial and
federal task force to hear from public health, substance abuse and
public safety experts.

The details of the task force should be announced in the coming weeks,
Blair said.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the government should decriminalize
marijuana right away.

"That could have been done immediately, make sure nobody gets a
criminal record because there are people being arrested now for simple
possession," he said outside the Commons. "So, let's get it done."
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